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COPING WITH UNCERTAINTY – A Suggestion

Uncertainty

Much has been written about the discomfort of uncertainty accompanied by its worry, stress and anxiety and it’s effects on so many areas of our lives.

For most of us worldwide our lives feel like we are stuck on pause, waiting to return to the illusion of the predictable and the freedom to move about and make plans.

It can feel like we are in quarantine, even if not officially, with challenges at every turn personally and relation-ally. Being alone together is stressful. Navigating the bumpy terrain of closeness and distance, needs and expectations, can be a strain. All the more so with children at home demanding engagement plus space constraints. Add the demands of working at home, social isolation and the ever present fear of a viral infection can exhaust our personal strengths.

Feeling emotionally overwhelmed, tempers are likely to flare easily, it’s consequences lingering, often painfully. Focusing on fearful thoughts can interfere with our ability to relax into the present moment and enjoy even the simple pleasure of a cup of coffee.

With so much uncertainty coping effectively can plummet, with little sense of control and no end in sight.

Although it may have felt that way, your future, through today, was never as predictable as you may have assumed. Instead it is the product of complex causes and conditions, and the often unrecognized power of serendipity – “the potential for random and unexpected events to wreck even the best laid plans.”

The one place uncertainty does not exist is in the present moment. Step into it. Scan your body for sources of stress and pain. Breath slowly into each such area and simply recognize and allow each experience of discomfort to communicate its needs to you. The body keeps the score. Maintain a curious, open mind as you do this exercise, “that’s interesting”. Lying on your back while propping your feet up against the wall for 5 min. as you do this is particularly calming.

Flexibility is a key here. Flexibility can aid in cushioning the impact of the unexpected by expecting the unexpected as much as possible, controlling what you can while appreciating all can continue to change rapidly. That is the value of having plans B, C & D. Just in case plan A gets sideswiped by the unexpected.

Reflect back on this time when so many of your cherished freedoms were curtailed by the virus. Reflect back on how you used your time during the lockup?

Do you feel a sense of satisfaction that you used your free time well, or did you while away the hours watching Netflix and reading far too much news?

There is a difference between being busy and being productive. A sense of accomplishment accompanies being productive, and it pays dividends going forward.

If you felt some regret when you looked back, then consider how to focus some of your current time now in ways that honor your interests and abilities and give you a sense of accomplishment when you reflect back from your future now to today.

In the midst of so many physical, financial and psychological threats, give yourself the gift of presents of mind, focus on what you can change, and deeply enjoy your coffee.

Dr Melanie Bryan
13 April 2020

It’s Not About You

Its-not-about-you - Taking things Personally

Taking Things Personally: The Downside

Your partner is late – again. You begin to fume, assuming s/he didn’t consider you enough to call or text.

Your work colleague didn’t inform you about an important meeting – again. S/he is trying to sabotage you, it’s obvious.

Taking things personally: rapidly interpreting another person’s words or actions as negative comments about you without considering other potential explanations. This damages your self-esteem, pummels self-confidence and too often renders us feeling angry, guilty or defensive.

It’s not about you.

Once you accept your vulnerability to over-personalize and consider other explanations for another’s words or actions, you step out of your victim mentality and create choice for yourself. Really, taking ownership of these rapid reactions, appreciating they are not about you, is truly freeing. Now you have choice in how to address the issue.

What are your triggers, what presses your buttons?

Triggers are reactivation’s of old emotional wounds or frustrations that still sting. A host of similarities to the original experiences such as a comment, body language, voice tone or look can trigger an over-reaction similar to the source experiences. These reactions are unique to each individual but are invariably disproportionate to a current given comment or behavior.

Other triggers develop via repeated frustrations with someone such as their being chronically late.

Becoming attuned to your triggers: “The body keeps the score”

An emotional red flag may be a sudden, rapid heartbeat or quickened breath, your chest or stomach may tighten, or your jaws may clench. Any of these reactions are important signals. Noticing them rather than reacting out of them gives you the opportunity to grasp the messages fueling these feelings.

To quickly step back from the trigger and step into the present moment, take a few deep, slow breaths, hold each a few seconds, then exhale slowly and name the feeling. This brief exercise allows you to step into the present moment, consider possible alternative explanations and take proactive or protective action.

Expressing your needs calmly and assertively will have you feeling more empowered and comfortable within yourself than taking things personally ever can.

Solution-Oriented Therapy*

Shifting the focus, improving self-esteem

 

Solution Oriented Therapy

 

One approach (among many) to both therapy and coaching I tend to employ, engages the client (or clients, in the case of a couple or family), in searching for exceptions to the presenting complaints and out of this investigation, constructing solutions, rather than honing in on the problem itself.  This means expanding the clients framework to include descriptions of when things are already happening satisfactorily in the area of distress that the clients want to continue to have happen.

Within this framework, I search for something worthwhile that is happening, explore these worthwhile  interactions, be they attitude shifts, behaviours etc. and encourage the client to continue doing more of these in lieu of their problematic reactions.

Promoting awareness of exceptions to these problematic behaviours or interactions and encouraging consideration of the differences between the situations when the problem occurs and the situations in which exceptions to the problem occurs, helps to shift the client’s attention towards their current abilities, towards potential solutions and towards amplifying more of what works.  A greater sense of self-appreciation of one’s capabilities for change and growth naturally follows from such a line of thinking.

Solution-talk can be present-focused:  “What are you doing now that is effective in dealing with or over-coming ‘x’? (Anxiety, fears, relationship conflicts, compulsions, etc.).  “How do you do that? When?”  “What do you think this tells me about you?”  “This ability to do something different, is this new or have you always had it?”

Solution-talk can also be future-focused:  How will you know when this problem is solved?  What will you be doing differently?  “Are  you doing any of that now?”  “How will other people you are close to know things are different without your having to tell them?”.  Such questions shift the client’s attention toward generating and sustaining differences that make a difference in resolving their presenting complaints.

Solution-talk can elicit resources from the past that can be incorporated in the present to improve a client’s self-image or functioning:  “At what time in your life would you have been most confident that you could have accomplished this?”  “What experience was most important in supporting that belief in yourself?”  “What does that time in your life tell you about yourself and your potential now?”

Solution-talk leads to a picture of life after successful (and often brief) therapy which can guide both therapist and client toward positive change patterns in the client’s life.

*Developed by Steve de Shazer, Brief Family Therapy Centre, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

 

 

 

Couples Conflict & Poaching

Conflict-Poaching

Couples often get stuck in repetitive patterns of interaction, doing the same thing and expecting different results.

There is frequently an attachment to each person’s point of view, ‘being right’ (referred to as a ‘losing strategy’), informed by a need to ‘win’ with an aversion to being ‘wrong’ which often solidifys such a stance.

A recent Royal Geographical Society (RGS) lecture on The Maasai Fight Against Poaching in Africa got me thinking about the need for couples in conflict to think outside the bounds of their conflicts to resolve their habitual struggles.

Maasai Daniel Ole Sambu and his Big Life Foundation is fighting against the epidemic of wildlife poaching with a variety of creative approaches in the Amboselli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem of Kenya and Tanzania.

His foundation’s unusual approaches reminded me of how important it is for couples to think counter-intuitively as Maasai Sambu has been doing, especially in dealing with repetitive conflicts.

For example:

In Maasai land, the only wild animal tribes kill is the lion. This is a coming of age ritual.

In an effort to change this long-standing tradition, the Foundation has created the Maasai Olympics where their young men ‘Hunt for Medals, not Lions’. And it’s working!

Another example:

Retribution killing based on tribal beliefs that when a wild animal kills a child or adult, or does destructive harm to their land, that animal must be killed in return.

To counter this belief, the Foundation’s conservation program compensates the tribesman for NOT killing. And it’s working!

A final example:

Poachers that are caught and punished with imprisonment are invited to become rangers once they have completed their sentences.

Maasai Sambu noted that these people make the best, most committed rangers!

Dr Melanie Bryan
www.mindmatters.hk

Overcoming Your Fear of Dogs

Overcoming Your Fear of Dogs

Long ago, in NYC, I had a beautiful, gentle Great Dane. Now and then I would encounter a mother and her 3 or 4 year old daughter in the lift when Calypso and I were going out for one of our daily walks.

The first few encounters the little girl would reach out to pet Calypso, her mother would quickly pull her back. In due course the little girl would recoil in fear when she encountered us in the lift.

She had learned to share her mother’s fear of my lovely dog.

The good news is that what can be learned can be unlearned.

 
The first step to unlearning a fear of dogs (or any fear for that matter) is an increased awareness of out habitual assumptions and images in the presence if the feared dog. Working with these responses on a multi-sensory, imaginary level, followed by controlled exposure can successfully resolve such fear and allow you the deep pleasure a dog can offer.

Some people need to begin by looking at picture or videos of people playing with the type of dog they fear. When these bo longer elicit a fearful response, controlled exposure can then be done.

 
In the presence initially of a small dog (or dogs, as in a shelter or on an Adoption Day) progressing to larger breeds. Such an approach can go a long way to resolving the fear, even with people who have been bitten as children and retain an automatic sense of fear in the presence of a similar sized dog, or all dogs.
 
Some puppies have been mistreated by their owners or foster ‘parents’ and have learned to cautious or fearful of people,
 
So it is quite possible that in overcoming your fear you may be helping a dog overcome their fear of humans.
 
Treat a dog kindly and you will be rewarded with the unconditional devotion and loyalty a dog is capable of giving and receiving,

Your comments are most welcome,

Dr Melanie Bryan
www.mindmatters.hk